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Monday, July 11, 2011

Driving Technology: Airbags

Imagine yourself driving along a road at 50MPH during the hour of 9PM EST on a hot summer night when all of a sudden the intense heat coupled with the late hour causes you to drift off slowly fading into darkness and then *BOOM!* you hit a wall. When automobiles first came about, this accident would mean absolute 100% death. While the chance of fatal injury is most likely still very high even today the risk of death for head on collisions has been greatly diminished by the invention of the air bag. As the name would suggest, this device is a bag which in the event of a collision is filled rapidly by a compressed gas released by a micro explosion. The resulting cushion keeps ones body from experiencing the full blunt of the accident at once instead spreading the impact over very precious seconds.

During an impact the main cause of injury and death is the body coming to a halt to fast. Think of it as throwing a brick at a wall, the wall is solid and so is the brick so when the two connect all the energy is released in an instant sometimes causing the brick to explode. Cars are now made with fronts that can be compressed in order to spread out the impact time and slow down the passengers but it is not enough as passengers often slam into the hard dashboard or steering wheel. The airbag now allows for a soft cushion to take away from the initial blow to your body. The device inflates within fractions of a second and deflates moments later to ensure maximum protection. Without these wonderful pieces of technology, every time someone got in a head on collision there would be a much greater chance of head injury or death even at lower speeds.

Airbags are not without their own safety concerns however as the explosive force behind their use can be quite dangerous, especially to small children. The force exerted when the airbag is initially inflated is enough to easily break ones bones and could potentially kill younger children. For this reason it is recommended that children under the age of 12 ride in seats without airbags and if absolutely necessary to ride with one be as far back as possible. For the driver the issue is most commonly their arms. The old method of holding the steering wheel at 10 and 2 poses great risk to the driver due to when the device inflates, the arms are in the way and such great force will absolutely devastate the bones. A new driving standard recommends holding the wheel at 8 and 4 below the center of the wheel which provides better protection against such issues and in my opinion better control over the vehicle itself.

It is apparent that driving technologies such as airbags have had a tremendous positive influence on how safely we are on the roads and have surely cut down on the loss of life. What do you feel about airbags usefulness? Leave your comments down below with your thoughts and have a good week everyone.

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